NASA spacecraft orbiting Ceres, a dwarf planet

Another dwarf planet is stealing some of Pluto's thunder.

New images of Ceres were beamed back by NASA's Dawn spacecraft; they are stirring up more questions than answers.

The images show some bright spots and a pyramid-shaped structure.

Ceres is a dwarf plant over 250 million miles away from Earth, right between Mars and Jupiter. The Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Ceres for months taking pictures and video. Some of those images show mysterious bright lights and not even NASA is sure what they are. 

One image taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows a pyramid-shaped mountain standing 3 miles high! But it's another set of pictures taken of Ceres surface that really have scientists talking.  

"What's being seen on Ceres right now are just some really just outright baffling bright spots that have been defying explanation until now," said Gerard Van Belle. 

Gerard Van Belle is an Astronomer at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. He says that Dawn is the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. As Dawn has gotten closer to Ceres surface scientists have a better idea of what those mysterious lights might be.

"Probably salt deposits or ice deposits from lakes that evaporated or sunk into the surface," said Van Belle.

Those lights emanate from the same location that NASA found water vapor leading some to believe that objects like Ceres brought water to Earth! But even NASA isn't sure what those bright lights are.

And while rocks, ice, and salt may all be good theories, even the best-trained scientist can hold out hope for something more.

I would absolutely love it if it were an ancient alien base that was left over there, but you know most of the time science is a little more boring than that I'm afraid.

Dawn had been orbiting 2,700 miles from Ceres surface but in August, it will dip down to an altitude of just 900 miles, getting an even clearer view of the dwarf planet. Hopefully, this will give NASA more information about what's really behind those mysterious lights.  

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